Here’s how I pictured life as a stay-at-home mom. The coffee machine switches on, and the cozy smell of caffeine wafts into my bedroom waking me up. I go from room to room, collecting my children. I serve them breakfast while we laugh together. We spend our mornings at a My Gym class, our afternoons with friends, and our evenings as a family, perhaps snuggled together watching a movie.
|“Ridge’s Food for infants and invalids” by Boston Public Library|
Are you cry-laughing at me yet?
As you can imagine, my first year of motherhood was a SHOCK. There was nothing to talk about with my infant over breakfast — caffeinated or not. My Gym classes were weekly, not daily, and I had completely forgotten about the whole two or three naps a day problem. Afternoons with friends would be great, if those friends didn’t have to stay home with their own napping children. And when my husband came home from work, what I wanted — no, needed — was a break from my needy little sidekick and a chance to get things done for the first time all day.
When my second baby was born only fifteen months later, I realized how wrong my expectations had been. I also realized that I didn’t have to change my stay-at-home status to improve my outlook. I just had to change my expectations, and I did that by recognizing some crucial things about myself.
|“tired mom” by Dragan|
I FOUND THE RIGHT LEVEL OF SOCIALIZING FOR ME
Ideally, I would start every day with a hot mug and a long chat (to my husband’s dismay). I need very little alone time, but I have close friends who do just fine when housebound for an entire week. When I stopped trying to be more like them, and instead found ways to meet my individual needs (e.g., catch-up phone calls during drop-offs, side-by-side Stairmasters at the gym, kid-free dinners with playgroup moms), I started to find the balance that I needed.
I KEEP MY BRAIN MOVING
Leaving my teaching job behind to become a SAHM did not meaning turning off my intellect like a switch, but I didn’t know where to find intellectual stimulation outside of work. Needham and its neighboring towns are overflowing with astoundingly smart people. Finding fellow parents who read interesting books or were engaged in their careers or passionate about volunteer work was something that happened organically. I also dabbled in tutoring and curriculum writing at different points between newborns. Now that I am officially done with babies, I’m researching for a book that my dad and I plan to write together. I have realized that flexing my mental muscle needs to be a core part of my life, even if I have to work to find opportunities.
I FOUND WHAT REALLY RELAXES ME
For my husband, relaxation means massage, but that feels a little too unproductive for me (I know, I have a problem). One of my close friends processes her thoughts on long runs. That’s not me, either. Other fellow moms unwind with a glass of wine. Although I like to drink with my girlfriends, solo pinot doesn’t have the same effect for me.
I discovered that the things that relax me are reading escapist novels (Elin Hilderbrand’s are a current favorite), watching offbeat comedies on Netflix in bed, and basically doing anything with my friends (I have some excellent friends!). Now that I know my list of relaxing things, I can try to fit a little of each into every week. I’m always also on the lookout for additional de-stressing activities.
|“keep cool on the swimming pool” by Julien Haler|
I DON’T HAVE TO ENJOY EVERY MINUTE
I have worked in publishing, test prep, high schools and middle schools, and never in any of those jobs have I been told to savor every moment. But in my job as a parent, I feel this constant undercurrent of expectation. People say, “Whenever you are at the end of your tether, take a deep breath and remember how fast it all goes.” You know what? I have tried that. While it did nothing for relieving my anger, it sure made me feel guilty about being angry. Helpful!
After reading the nine millionth HuffPo article purporting to teach parents something new about gratitude, while feeling shamed for not “stopping to smell the roses” as my toddlers wrote on walls and swallowed barrettes and head-butted me for picking out the wrong sweatpants, I had enough. I am doing THE BEST I CAN. That should be good enough. My kids are going to be JUST FINE.
|“Playdate” by Ian Brown|
Some of my initial fantasy has come true. I do have my hot cup of caffeine on most mornings . . . but it’s usually not until after the round of drop-offs. My kids and I see our friends at sports, playdates, impromptu pizza parties and in all sorts of ways, foreseen or unforeseen. With five kids under eight years of age, my house has become our very own My Gym, with no monthly fees!
I do have to work hard to find my balance, and the balance will continue to change. It may not always be roses, but my constant efforts have always been worth the reward (so far!).
About the Author
Joanna Noon is a Brookline native who loves living in Needham with her husband and five children. She worked in education before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Joanna is a longtime member of Parent Talk and is excited to serve on the Parent Talk Board as Membership Co-Chair.